No Disc Required: Sonic CD Heading To PC

By Lewie Procter on September 5th, 2011 at 4:47 pm.


The early/mid 90s was a confusing time to love Sega games. Sure, they were still pumping out classic software left, right and centre, but they couldn’t make their mind up about which piece of home console hardware they wanted you to own the most. The Mega CD was a CD based expansion for their trusty Mega Drive, which let you play many of the same games as you could play on cartridges, just with higher audio fidelity and price tags. There was also a few Mega CD exclusive games though, probably most noteworthy was their flagship platforming mascot’s imaginatively titled Sonic CD, which is now heading to PC (again).

Yes, there was a PC port of this back in 1996, but wikipedia tells me that it won’t work on modern operating systems, and Sega’s PC ports back then were only OK at best anyway. This newly announced downloadable version, like many ports of old Sega stuff to new platforms, started off life as a new fan made engine, that’s ended up getting official support, leading to a commercial release. New features include widescreen support and acheivements, although no price or release date has been set as of yet.

I never owned a Mega CD, so I’m not too familiar with this entry in the series, but I know many regard it as the series high point.

View this trailer to revisit a time when Sonic was a respectable game series, rather than the complete and utter joke we’re left with today.

And here’s the lovely looking intro video. How come the new 3D sonic games look nothing like this?

More details over at the Sega blog.

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87 Comments »

  1. Porkolt says:

    I’m skeptic that it will manage to compare to Sonic 3 & Knuckles.

    And isn’t there some way to emulate this thing?

    • jon_hill987 says:

      I have yet to find one that compares favourably to Sonic the Hedgehog (as in the first one) on the Master System.

    • Quxxy says:

      Porkolt: Yes, you can emulate Sonic CD.

      As for how it compares to S3&K… they really feel like different games. It’s damn good, but I’m too biased by having owned Sonic 3 before all the others. :)

    • Wulf says:

      Actually, the first Sonic the Hedgehog was on the Mega Drive, it was a launch title, and at this time the Sega Master System version didn’t exist. At the time the stars of the SMS platforming scene were titles like Alex Kidd, Wonderboy III: The Monster’s Lair and Psycho Fox (I loved Psycho Fox).

      The first version of Sonic the Hedgehog on the SMS was actually a backport of the Mega Drive version. It was cut down a lot and lacked in a lot of ways compared to its Mega Drive forebear. Sort of like how the backport of Golden Axe to the SMS lacked in a lot of ways, too (I believe that in the SMS backport one could only play as Ax Battler). The SMS was a great console in its day but by the time Sonic the Hedgehog was rising, it was already pretty much six feet under.

      Citation needed?

      Sonic the Hedgehog (the original 16-bit version) was released in June of 1991.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonic_the_Hedgehog_%281991_video_game%29

      Sonic the 8-bit Backport was released in October of 1991.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonic_the_Hedgehog_%288-bit%29

      I remember everything about this particular era because the Master System and the Mega Drive provided some of my fondest gaming experiences. I wish games like Shining Force still existed. Oh well… at least Phantasy Star is still doing the rounds. (And there’s a new PC version of Phantasy Star Online, PSO 2, on the way soon. Hooray!!)

    • jon_hill987 says:

      Yeah I know, the post wasn’t clear but I meant the first one on the master system. I think porting it to 8bit with the limited colour pallet made them work harder at the art and it looked better as a result.

    • LewieP says:

      The master system version wasn’t a port actually, they were two different games, made by two different teams, although many of the zones shared names and basic aesthetic style. Same for sonic 2 too.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      It was clearly made by the more awesome of the two teams!

    • Richard Moss says:

      Must admit, I also preferred the Master System version. Now I’m all nostalgic for a system I got rid of umpteen years ago!

    • kupocake says:

      Hey, Sonic SMS is so awesome, it featured a time travelling Janet Jackson song. Oh wait…

    • nuttyjawa says:

      I’ve always seen sonic cd as both a mixture of 1 and 3, still own it and love it!

    • DrGonzo says:

      Sonic CD is excellent, as is Sonic 1 and 3, but my personal favourite is the second one. It got everything just right, from the music to the levels. But I love the fact everyone has a different favourite, and back then at least they were all genuinely great games(unlike the more recent games).

    • pilot13 says:

      Actually, I’m not sure there is a way to emulate Sonic CD. I remember for a long time after the Mega CD died that all that stuff was very difficult to find (legally or otherwise). I didn’t actually get to play Sonic CD until the (second?) collection of Sonic games appeared on PS2. Any roms floating around might actually be based off that emulation/rom (although wikipedia says it’s based off the janky pc port).

      Either way, as a result Sonic CD became one of the more venerated games largely because it was so damn hard to find irrespective of quality. It just helps that it’s genuinely one of the better entries in the series, although Sonic 2 was always my favourite. The later games don’t really do the franchise any justice, ‘rad surfer’ Adventure Sonic is a bit crap.

    • HeavyStorm says:

      Damn, I HAVE to hitchhike this post, because I don’t want to appear on the last page:

      I still OWN Sonic CD for PC and Wikipedia is right, the game won’t launch on Windows XP / Vista / 7 even using compatibility modes. I haven’t really stressed the matter (I was just trying to show it to my girlfriend), but I guess there was no hope (unless VMing a Win95 would be some kind of hope). And then again, I also own it on Sega CD.

      About the “best” Sonic games, it’s, of course, disputable. They are all really similar. (You are hearing it from guy who bought Mega Drive only to play Sonic). Sonic CD was top quality because it explored the level designed to its limit and featured one of the best Sonic boss fights ever: Sonic must race against Metal Sonic (or something) in order to save Amy Rose. But the highlight was the time travel mechanics, through which you could see a stage in three different manners:

      * Present
      * Past
      * Good Future
      * Bad Future

      You had to go to the past to break a machine that would corrupt the land so that you could see good future. Otherwise, when you jumped into the future, you’d see “bad future”. Oh, and as a bonus, this game also featured a Sonic music (no idea where it came from) which was very cool and I have it completely memorized ever since I was a child.

      Buuuut, my favorite one is Sonic & Knuckles + Sonic 3. After all, they form a very large saga, enable you to play with three characters (Sonic, Knuckles and, of course, Tails), have Super Sayajin Level 1 AND 2, some of the coolest stages ever (Hidden Sanctuary for example), a very fun final boss fight (remember, chasing Robotnik using the Gems power?).. oh God I love the game.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      I have to agree, S3&K, when taken as a whole, has to be the best.

      Sonic 1, and especially 2, both have some fantastic levels. I’m particularly fond of Sonic 2 as Knuckles, actually.

      The master system ones, which I played first, I did enjoy. Sonic 1 (master system) was probably the first platformer I mastered, and where I got my taste for the genre. I remember there being a few clever tricks they managed to fit in there, even with the relatively simple level geometry.

      Sonic 2 (master system) I didn’t like so much. A lot of the levels were just arbitrarily cruel, or just not very entertaining.

      Sonic Chaos was a bit crazy, and a lot of fun. Was the first one I got to play tails in too.

      But yeah, I think the graphics are best in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and it has some really epic, cinematic levels. A few duffers, and a few levels that are stretched out too long, but even the low points are fun enough.

      I really liked Sonic when I was younger.

    • HeavyStorm says:

      @Lewie, I have to agree… the first Sonic I played was the first one for Master System… and the second I also loved, but sometimes it was frustrating… at least if you were trying to get all the emeralds to reach the final (secret) stage. But there were some innovative things in the Master version that the Mega Drive hadn’t, like the hand gliding (worse emerald) and stuff like that.

      Sonic Chaos I only played on Game Gear, but was really fun.

      Besides those games, I must mention Knuckles Chaotix. The game ins’t supreme, but they found a way to make it actually playable by two gamers.

  2. Anarki says:

    I immediately ran to UKResistance to see how excited he’d be at this news before I remembered he quit :(

  3. Glycerine says:

    The Sonic Rush games on the DS are actually pretty great! Mainly because they go straight back to the style of gameplay from the Sonic 1-3 era. The rest of the modern ones seem a bit naff though.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      The rush games play nothing like the old ones.

      The classic ones had a decent and complex physics system, which gives you really good control over what you’re doing. It rewarded learning the levels, and conserving momentum to keep going fast.

      Rush (and the advance games, and Sonic 4) have broken physics that don’t even make any sense, and a button that you press to make you go fast.

    • Chizu says:

      To be fair the Advance games were closer to the old games than the Rush/Colours DS games were. They didn’t have the boosting mechanic and had better physics. Along with a need to explore levels if you wanted to get to the special zones.

      Nothing will ever be better than Sonic 3 & Knuckles though :’(

    • Gnoupi says:

      @Lewie – The DS’ rush games play differently than the original, but they are fun to play, in my opinion, and really give the impression of speed that this character is supposed to have.

      It plays more like a reflex game than a platformer, true, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

    • Megadyptes says:

      I was also quite fond of DS Sonic Rush, didn’t like the 3d boss battles so much though.

    • Gnoupi says:

      @megadyptes – indeed, that was so bad I haven’t blacked out this part from my memory until now :O But the rest, quite fun, especially the disorientation from switching screen.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Rush is a brilliant sonic I think, the physics aren’t broken and the Rush subtitle lets you know it’s not meant to be a plain old Sonic game. In my opinion the best of the new games alongside the Bioware Sonic RPG.

  4. Woden says:

    Never having seen the Sonic CD intro video before, my main thought during the whole thing was wondering when Goku was going to show up, since Sonic seemed to be running around in his neck of the woods.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Agreeably cheesy music, though.

    • Quxxy says:

      LionsPhil: Actually, the game will apparently be launching with the original Japanese soundtrack, meaning the intro won’t sound like that.

      Here’s the version from Sonic Jam (spoiler warning: contains ending video, too (Sonic wins)): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFxCHpOpEgo

    • Harvey says:

      @Woden: Oh man! You are not the only one who thought this. :)

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      Colthor says:

      The EU/Japanese intro music was much better. Toot toot sonic warrior!

    • siegarettes says:

      @Quxxy
      Actually I thought I remember them saying that you would have the option to switch between the two?

    • LionsPhil says:

      The important thing, though—and I say this despite never owning one of their consoles or caring for the neon-forest animals platformer—is will it have the generic swooshy neon lines logo like the trailer up there, or will it have “Sayyy-gaaa“?

    • Milky1985 says:

      “The EU/Japanese intro music was much better. Toot toot sonic warrior!
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3cFn6NneHA

      Oddly i think the US version of the title theme was better, but the in game music of the JP/EU version was much much better. If they go with the EU music (as i thnk they are doing) i will overall be happier :P

    • Ralphomon says:

      @Colthor LIES! LIES AND HERESY!

      Although it seems I’m in the minority for loving Sonic Boom.

    • Coillscath says:

      I’m going to avoid claiming one soundtrack was better than the other, but I played the PAL game when I was little so hearing that soundtrack again is going to be the only way to play the game for me. Hearing any other music with it will just sound… Wrong.

  5. Dominic White says:

    They seem to be pulling Sonic back from the brink now – Sonic Colors on the Wii was actually a pretty solid game!

    • The JG Man says:

      I’m gonna back that up. Funny how Sonic 4 was labelled as ones for the ‘old fans’ and Colours for the new people, yet what generally happened was the reverse (emphasis on generally, not all). I tried the demo for Sonic 4 and was immediately disappointed by so many things. Colours, on the other hand, just worked well. No stupid plot, but one that was light hearted and as a result worked well, actually good level design and more than enough incentives for replayability. In short, it was actually fun.

      Shame it didn’t come out on anything that could actually support HD though, because the art direction made the game look pretty bloody good.

    • Hatsworth says:

      While I don’t think it looks like it plays well, emulated Sonic Colours is beautiful:

    • The JG Man says:

      I’m very aware of Dolphin, was actually tempted to try it for Sonic Colours because I thought it deserved it, but it was more me saying shame it didn’t come out on the platforms that could support it. Had it have come out on the PC, I’d have happily double dipped. It’s not worth it sitting in my Wii that’s collecting dust, but if it was on the PC ready to play at a click, I’d likely still be playing it.

    • TheGameSquid says:

      Sonic Colours was superb IMO. It was clearly the best Sonic console game in a long while, and probably the best 3D Sonic.

      But I really do think people forget about the things DIMPS has done one the handhelds though. Sonic Advance 1-3 were three excellent games that were on-par with the original 5 2D console games, and Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure were great too!

      In fact, I’m one of the few that thought Sonic 4 really wasn’t all that bad. It wasn’t a hardcore throwback to the original, but I didn’t mind (in fact, most complaints were either that it was too similar or that it was not similar enough… go figure). It was a tad expensive though, I agree with that.

    • Buttless Boy says:

      As a former SEGA fanboy I back Sonic Colo(u)rs 100%. It’s the best Sonic game since S&K and probably my favorite Wii platformer. If it weren’t for the short length and painfully awful cutscenes, it might be my favorite Sonic game. And that’s not just nostalgia talking. Colors is a Damn Fine Game.

  6. LionsPhil says:

    Sonic CD: Teaser Trailer [HD]

    Now using over three video pixels for each pixel of the in-game graphics!

    • The JG Man says:

      *Edit Somehow magically responded to the wrong message. Woops!

  7. Eclipse says:

    I bet that intro song is one of Guile’s favorite

  8. Premium User Badge

    TheApologist says:

    Sonic Boom is the worst song I’ve ever heard.

    • thegooseking says:

      It was 1993. Music sounded like that then, much as we’ve tried to forget that by only remembering the better stuff.

      In summary, Sonic CD has retro graphics and gameplay, which is good, but a dated intro song, which is bad.

    • Premium User Badge

      HermitUK says:

      Don’t forget that’s only the US song – they changed most of the game’s soundtrack for the US release, and not for the better. This is the original. So much cheese, but also much better :p

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      It was 1993. Music sounded like that then [snip]

      My god man, what kind of horrors did you subject yourself to in order to believe that is what music sounded like in the early 90′s?

    • Premium User Badge

      TheApologist says:

      Yowza. That is better. And yet far worse.

    • GHudston says:

      Heathens.

      Disclaimer: My view is heavily skewed due to the fact that I was 5 when this came out and Sonic meant everything to me.

  9. MikoSquiz says:

    Can you imagine how great the Sonic games would be if they played anything like that video looks? I demand more high-speed parkour in my Sonic!

  10. Kaira- says:

    Sonic Unleashed actually looks pretty good, but I haven’t tried it. Anybody know if it’s worth trying?

  11. Eclipse says:

    “This newly announced downloadable version, like many ports of old Sega stuff to new platforms, started off life as a new fan made engine, that’s ended up getting official support, leading to a commercial release. ”

    Are you sure of this? 100% of new old Sega releases on Steam (and even the iphone ones) are just emulator+rom packed in a nicely sega branded gui. It’s not a port, it’s straight emulation…

    I don’t know if this will be the same but I think it’s the easier way, instead of actually making the game from scratch. I know for sure SEGA genesis games on steam are all emulated, same for the ones on the appstore. And I’m betting this one is just a sega mega cd emulator (like kega fusion, picodrive and many others) that only plays one iso file…

    • Untitled says:

      This version of the game is being mostly developed by Taxman, who is known in the sonic community for his ProSonic engine and Retro Sonic game before that. Both have painstakingly accurate physics to the original games and his ProSonic engine can import level maps from the mega drive roms. This version of Sonic CD will be the real deal and I can promise you it will play perfectly.

  12. Creeping Death says:

    I never got a chance to play this when it came out, not owning the CD extension for the Mega Drive, but I do remember reading the storyline in Sonic the Comic (anyone else remember how awesome that was?) and getting stupidly excited about it.

    So yea, I’ll probably be getting this at some point in the future. Even if it is a repackaged rom and emulator, as long as it WORKS. I could never get a working one :(

    • Memphis-Ahn says:

      You won’t regret it, Sonic CD is the best game in the series.

    • karry says:

      Just get the soundtrack, the game itself isnt worth it. Its Sonic 1 quality with spindash move added. Bleh.

    • Creeping Death says:

      @Karry; “Sonic 1 quality” is definately NOT a negative point to me. That game was, and still is, fantastic fun. Spring Yard zone is still my favourite area in any Sonic game, and Star Light Zone had some amazing music.

    • pilot13 says:

      @Creeping Death

      Yes! The Fleetway comics were awesome. Nigel Kitching was god. I gave up after they started just reprinting strips though.

    • jamesgecko says:

      It’s not a repackaged rom and emulator. It’s a new engine developed from the ground up by Taxman; a huge fan who got SEGA’s attention. The demos of his engine he’s released have been extremely impressive; the physics should be indistinguishable from the original game. Plus, he’s been doing things like putting in higher FPS animations for rings, making the parallax scrolling smoother, and making the game work at any aspect ratio. If anything, this will run better than the original.

  13. somnolentsurfer says:

    I don’t think I could put up with that song for a moment longer, but I’d love to play a Sonic game that looked like that.

  14. Hatsworth says:

    Despite being a huge fan of 2d platformers, Sonic is one series I could never get into. It seems so incredibly on-rails, like it plays itself far too much. That’s a concession you have to make due to the whole speed aspect I guess, but it doesn’t really seem very fun to me.
    I did try the DS collection of 1-3, but the terrible framerate(hope that was a botched port-job) made me quit very fast. The modern ones seem even more lacking in interactivity with things like automatic homing attacks. I suppose it comes down to nostalgia too, but I did play a little bit of Sonic as a kid without finding it remotely as good as say Mario games or Rayman 1.

  15. iojnekns says:

    There is a hack of this game called Sonic CD++ that is well worth a go if you’re going to emulate the damn thing anyway. It adds the classic Sonic 2 spindash move, removes the speedcap, adds an in-air boost and generally speeds the gameplay up a fair bit. Check it out ;)

  16. The JG Man says:

    I covered this in a thread on the forums which has a few more details, for those interested. Not all of it is accurate, but I think it is as of the latest post, so best read through it all in case you get incorrect information.

    Answering a couple of things above, the engine was originally by a fan to port it over to iProducts with 60fps and widescreen, plus a few other doodads. It was obviously picked up by Sega/Sonic Team. From what little there is confirmed about it, mostly through the creator of the engine, you can choose (?) between the standard physics and the ‘peel-out’ move, and the Sonic 2/3&K physics with spin-dash.

  17. kuran says:

    Thats such an awesome graphic in the post’s header. This game’s Sega CD release (PAL version for a change) has some of the coolest cover art ever. Love it.

  18. Freudian Slip says:

    Sonic Boom, Sonic Boom, Sonic boooooooooooooom! I must have listened to that song hundreds upon hundreds of times as a kid.

  19. Lewie Procter says:

    Wind Waker at 1920×1080 is fucking glorious.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      IT’S THE DREADED REPLY FAIL. WHAT DO I DO?

    • The JG Man says:

      Pray to the comment gods!

      I’ve seen pictures of it from the Dolphin though. That game is probably always going to look fantastic.

    • Wulf says:

      All versions of Ecco will always look amazing for two distinct reasons.

      #1: All the Ecco games had absolutely phenomenal art direction.
      #2: All of the Ecco games had a setting that could inspire a person and fire up their imagination.

      Any game that has those qualities is always going to look good and will likely age really well. I’ve recently replayed the Dreamcast version, even, and it’s still jaw-dropping. I think it’d take the breath away of anyone who had even the slightest bit of wonder in them, and that wouldn’t be anything to do with water-based asphyxiation, either.

      Ecco is one of those console games I keep going back to. It’s as hard as nails but it’s worth it.

    • smoke.tetsu says:

      If you think that looks good try it in HD and 3D! Wind Waker looks glorious in 3D…. in fact I would almost say you haven’t played it if you haven’t seen in in 3D. :)

    • Lewie Procter says:

      Oh wow.

      I’ve not played it in 3D, but I have viewed 3D screenshots taken from an emulator, on my 3DS. Looked lovely.

      Would love a 3DS port, or direct sequel.

    • BeamSplashX says:

      @Wulf:
      That’s Dolphin the emulator they’re talking about. Ecco is pretty fantastic though.

  20. LGM says:

    Aaarrggh!!!

    Who is running the show at Sega? Like we really need another port of Sonic games, honestly!

    WHERE THE FUCK IS SHENMUE? Dammit, there are huge amounts of people out there who have been waiting and waiting and waiting for a new Shenmue, or even remakes or re-releases of Shenmue 1 and 2. But NOOOOOOOO, releasing a product that people actually want would apparently be insane!

    Ooh, Sega all stars racing? I bet that sold well! NOT!!

    Ooh, the dreamcast collection with f’ing Bass Fishing and Space Channel 5, I bet that sold great! NOT!! (Because, you know, Bass Fishing and Space Channel 5 were so much more popular that Shenmue, right? !!)

    It’s like they make decisions at Sega by dropping a headless chicken onto a spinning wheel like on that episode of South Park.

    Sega doing nothing with the Shenmue games = they are morons.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      To be fair (although actually, it’s more “to explain their laziness”), all the games in the Dreamcast collection had already had PC ports. They just packaged them up (and ported them to the Xbox 360 too), with minimal effort.

      A Shen Mue port, whilst would be nice, isn’t something they could just shove out with minimal effort to cash in on nostalgia and good will.

    • BeamSplashX says:

      I love Shenmue. I didn’t realize until recently how much more genuine a developer seems when they announce in advance how many games are going to be in a series (versus “Made money? Make sequel!”). Then they actually cut that number down… and then cut things off after the second game.

      I made myself sad just now. Be back later.

    • Wulf says:

      FYI – Sega All Stars Racing was a pretty good Mario Kart analogy and was rated pretty damn highly by a god number of sources. You shouldn’t judge everything on looks alone, it’ll limit your gaming tastes, and your life in general.

    • BeamSplashX says:

      Sega Bass Fishing is actually a perfect example of what was great about first-party Dreamcast games. My brother and I don’t play fishing games normally, but Sega’s mastery of arcade-styled presentation and feedback made it exciting to play- moreso than the leveling systems that superseded arcade aesthetics.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      Oh, I do think the message is pretty clear from Sega on this though:

      If you get started on a port of some of their old stuff to modern platforms, and do a professional enough job for it to be released (and they have all the rights and such), they will give you a job and commercially release your work.

      Sega have done quite a lot of this over the years, but I think today’s industry is possibly a bit more conducive too it.

      Get to it, anyone who wants a job working for Sega.

    • BeamSplashX says:

      Streets of Rage was always a favorite of mine, I wish… wait.

      :(

  21. BeamSplashX says:

    I really enjoyed Sonic Adventure, which I probably ended up liking more than Sonic 3 & Knuckles for a while since I couldn’t get past the trap in Sonic 3 using Sonic/Tails. I mean, press down? Really? That was my childhood you were messing with, Sega.

  22. Moroboshi-kun says:

    How come the new 3D sonic games look nothing like this?

    Um… Because it’s hand drawn animation? Cel-shading aside, that’s kind of hard to replicate on a game console, you know.

  23. Burky says:

    Haha, I have a Mega CD just for this game. Probably the only good game on that terrible platform, with the possible exception of Eternal Champions.

    Vastly more complex level design than any of the other Mega Drive games, which is simultaneously both a good and bad thing for a Sonic game. It’s more interesting to explore, but you can also get a bit lost. There’s also some weirdness about how it controls, because it was made between Sonic 1 and 2.

    Oh, and my PAL edition with the original soundtrack sounds so much better than the US soundtrack; thankfully they’re using it here.

    • Premium User Badge

      c-Row says:

      The US version has some good tunes as well (“Sonic Boom” featuring Pastiche for example) but the JP soundtrack is indeed far superior. Still listen to it on my iPod these days.

      Also, prepare for a hard-as-rock boss stage on Stardust Speedway!

  24. Ralphomon says:

    Sonic CD was great. The bad thing about it, though, (at least the PC and Sonic Gems Collection or whatever) was the massive loading times when you changed time zone. If it was almost instantaneous, I would love Sonic CD twice as much as I do now (which is a lot anyway).